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How to Go Green without Really Trying

Posted by SEPCO

3/20/14 9:30 AM

Going green might seem like a complicated, cumbersome ideal that’s just a little too far out of your comfort zone. But it’s not something that has to take a lot of energy if you don’t have a lot to expend. Here are a few simple ways to go green without really trying.

Buy the Right Light Bulbs

This is a simple enough way to go a little greener all over the house. When you need to replace the light bulbs in your home, do yourself a favor and buy the florescent bulbs instead of the standard. They use 75% less energy than the incandescent variety and last much, much longer. They might be a little pricier up front, but they’ll more than pay for themselves—and your home will be a little greener for it.

Watch Water Use

Next time your showerheads need to be replaced, go for the low-flow option. You’ll conserve water in a big way, which will reduce your water bill as well as be environmentally friendly.

Teach your children to brush their teeth with the water off. Letting the water run while they scrub wastes an inordinate amount of water (up to five gallons a day) that could be saved simply by twisting the tap.

Only run the washing machine and dishwasher when they’re completely full. Half-loads aren’t as efficient, and you’ll end up running more loads than necessary.

Turn_off_ComputerTurn It Off

When you finish with your electronics for the night, turn them off. Unplug printers, computers, the TV, the DVD player, etc. If you can, plug them all into a power strip and then just switch it off every night before you go to bed. Turning off the devices all the way will prevent phantom power draw.

So instead of just leaving your laptop open and running, put it to sleep if you’re going to be away from it for a while. Turn off your phone at night instead of leaving it on all night to waste battery life. It will hardly take an effort on your part, and it’s just that much greener.                                                   

Permeable Paving

Your house can and should be just as green as your lifestyle. That isn’t to say that you need to install solar panels (although these are getting to be both more plausible and popular) or live in a tree house, but it can still be environmentally friendly. Next time you need to get your driveway repaved, consider forgoing the traditional asphalt or concrete and having permeable paving installed instead by your local paving company. Vancouver and Minnesota residents might need to have their roads repaved more often than cities in warmer climates, but the idea is the same no matter where you live.

Permeable paving is made of substances such as glass or permeable concrete that allow water to filter through it, keeping the surrounding lawns moist. They cool faster and require little maintenance. These materials are a little pricier but might be worth it in your quest for simple ways to go green.

Grow_a_GardenGrow a Garden

This idea takes a little more work, but if you plan on growing a garden anyway, you’re not any worse for wear. If you’ve been toying with the idea of planting a garden and just haven’t gotten around to it, make 2014 the year you try.

Gardens are an excellent way to “go green.” It doesn’t have to take up half your yard—any size, even a few tomato plants in pots, will make your meals a little healthier and reduce your “carbon footprint.”

Slow Down

When you drive, slow down a little. Higher speeds use more gas, so if you can afford to take a little extra time on your morning commute, it might be worth it. Checking the air pressure in your tires on a regular basis will also contribute to better gas mileage, as will keeping your air filters clean. Consider carpooling to work if you can to reduce emissions. None of these changes are life-altering, but the positive benefits add up.

Green Grocery Shopping

When you shop, spend the extra cash to buy natural or organic goods. They’re not as cheap as the produce grown with chemicals and hormones, but raising awareness of the health and environmental benefits of organically grown foods will make a difference.

Bring your own bags to carry your groceries. Reduce your use of paper and plastic bags (that only go straight to the landfills after you trash them at home). You can find cloth bags anywhere—many grocery stores even sell them in an effort to promote greener living.

Remember: your entire lifestyle doesn’t have to change to go green. Just be aware of the little things, and before you know it, you’ll be living just a little greener. 

About the Author: Georgiah Cook has a passion for finance, education, and the environment. She recently had her own driveway repaved, which set her on another “green” streak. For more information, visit Superior Paving. Georgiah also loves biking, hiking, and people-watching at the beach.

Pics: Wiki Acer, Wiki Garden

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas, Fun Green Articles, Conservation, Recycling

20 Small Eco-Friendly Steps to Save Money Long Term

Posted by SEPCO

1/30/14 9:30 AM

business_(more)_eco_friendlyIn the current tough economic climate, people often leave environmental concerns by the wayside. Most directors don’t consider steps to turn eco-friendly as essential to the running of the company. Trimming costs often takes priority over anything else – however, what most don’t realise is that lowering expenses and turning eco-friendly are not mutually exclusive processes.

This is a misconception that is really costing our planet (and your bottom line). After you’ve read the following tips, taking the steps to turn your business into an eco-friendly powerhouse will seem like an absolute no brainer. These investments will not only help the environment, but you’ll be saving your business truckloads of money. Sure, some require an initial investment but over time you will make that money back multiple times over.

1. Minimize Printing
Try and instil a culture where printing is used as a last resort. Encourage your employees to communicate by email, send meeting notes as Word documents and send faxes online instead of using a dedicated fax machine.

2. Use Environmentally-Friendly Paper
Let’s face it; we can’t completely eradicate printing. If you still find yourself having to hit that Print button, make sure you’re using the right kind of paper. Don’t just look for a random recycling logo (it’s often just a gimmick), but instead opt for PCW paper as it’s guaranteed to be made with fully recycled materials.

3. Print Double-Sided Documents
Encourage your employees to utilize as much paper as possible before discarding into the garbage or recycling bin. This can reap many benefits in paper consumption and costs.

4. Use Biodegradable Soaps & Cleaners
Not only is this much better for the environment, but also for the general safety of your workers. Cleaning products that are more natural with minimal ingredients may also prove to be cheaper in costs as well.

5. Utilize Plants in Your Office Space
At a glance, this may seem like a visual aesthetic (which yes, it may help with), but in terms of health benefits, it may be advantageous. Plants carry natural pollen and allergenic absorbents that help workers breathe easier and become less sick, especially during allergy season.

6. Buy Energy Star Appliances
New appliances have placed energy consumption at the forefront, cutting down on environment impact. Invest in Energy Star appliances that will cut down your bills, even if they are a little expensive. Over time, it’s worth it.

7. Renewable Energy
While it is true that installations such as solar panels will require an initial outlay, you will save your company money over time. If you’re not in a place that gets a lot of sunlight, your options aren’t completely limited. You can also consider using wind power, for instance. It’s staggering just how efficient these systems can be.

8. Use LED or CFL Lights
While initially a little pricier, LED and CFL lights last much longer than your standard light bulb. Not only that, they use far less energy as well. Per bulb, you can save a staggering $200 over its lifetime. Even though you’ll be spending a significantly higher chunk right off the bat, it’s still a sound financial decision.

9. Turn off Lights & Electronics When Not Needed
A large portion of businesses are guilty of this one by leaving on lights and computers on a continuous basis, without thinking of the ramifications. Something as easy as turning off the light in a room not in use is a simple act that people tend to forget. Putting our computers to sleep (or completely shutting them off) at the end of each work day can also help us in saving up on energy bills.

10. Ensure Efficient Heating & Cooling For Office Space
This relates to the overall energy consumption of your office. Make sure that your building is up to code and is well-insulated during cold winters and/or hot summers. A well-insulated space ensures that you use less energy, saving an enormous amount on energy billing.

11. Consider an Energy Audit
Some managers consider energy audits to part of new-age mumbo jumbo, but they’re actually extremely beneficial. Consultants that work for these companies know exactly where businesses can make changes to save money and benefit the environment at the same time.

12. Conserve Water
Do your part in conveying to your employees the importance of water conservation. This can help with costs by restricting any over-usage. It is also a good idea to keep an eye out for any leaks and areas of your facility that don’t need water access; in which case you can consider turning the supply off for.

13. Carpooling
If most of your employees drive into the office using their own cars, there is a lot of room for improvement. Carpooling is also a good way for your staff members to get to know each other a bit better on the way to work.

14. Public Transportation & Bikes
Try and encourage people to use these alternative means of transportation. This can increase the reduction of your company’s carbon footprint and over time, save everyone money.

15. Use Green Web Hosting
Green web hosts are companies that take part in a plethora of green initiative, such as planting of trees, utilizing renewable energy sources, and implementing carbon offsets within their operations. These companies are capable of hosting your websites at the same costs (and sometimes less) than the majority of other companies that rely on fossil fuels.

16. Working from Home
If at all possible, have your employees work from home if their jobs involved mainly computer-based tasks. Not only does this increase productivity, but it can save operating costs to the company.

17. Online Queries
Directing your customers to fill out online forms for general questions and queries may help your team work more efficiently by dealing with less physical paper. Additionally, website pages that list frequently asked questions may also compliment this sort of approach.

18. Utilize Video Conferencing
With the growth of technology over the past several years, the use of video conferencing has skyrocketed due to its efficiency and reliability. Not only will you reduce the costs of flying your employees from place-to-place, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing that both money AND time was spared…. It is truly an efficient use of a web application for businesses worldwide.

19. Refurbishing Furniture
This is a great alternative to those looking to purchase new office furniture. Consider the possibility of re-purposing old chairs and tables if possible to tremendously cut costs, while at the same time giving your space a breath of fresh air.

20. Buy Used
If you do, in fact, decide to buy new office furniture, it might also be a great idea to try buy second-hand, via online classified ads. You would be saving a dramatic amount and at the same time re-cycling someone else’s things.

Final Word: One Step at a Time
Becoming an eco-friendly business from one day to the next is impossible, but that’s no reason to put it off ad infinitum. Simple steps can turn into massive savings over time and your environment will thank you.

About the Author: Mark is a green conscious man, and thinks all companies should have an environmentally conscious business model and achieve profit at the same time.

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas, Fun Green Articles, Conservation

Dark Sky Friendly Lighting is Necessary Now More Than Ever

Posted by SEPCO

1/14/14 9:30 AM

Ever look at a map from a satellite in orbit? Notice all the lights that you can see. What about looking up at night to find the stars in the sky? How much do you not actually see due to light pollution? These are some serious questions that are starting to be asked by more people. Light pollution is becoming a problem and dark sky friendly lighting is the key to solving this issue.

Sky_at_Night

What makes a dark sky friendly light?

A dark sky friendly light provides a distinct light pattern that is shielded from casting light above top of the fixture. This provides lighting only towards the ground where the lighting is required. It also uses the needed light levels and not over lighting an area which will reflect the light back up into the atmosphere. Finally, the lights should be turned off when not needed.

Non-dark sky light fixtures cast light in all directions, including upwards. This wastes energy, causes a twilight effect that confuses wildlife and disturbs breeding patterns. It also produces a glare for people driving on roads that can be distracting and tiresome for eyes.

 

Why are dark sky lights important?

Dark sky lighting is important as light pollution disrupts ecosystems and threatens astronomy. On top of that, the wasted light costs a lot in wasted energy, about $2.2 billion per year, in the US alone. Dark sky friendly fixtures push the lighting down where it is actually needed and not up into the atmosphere. This provides less glare and light pollution allowing wildlife to resume their natural rhythm as well as allowing astronomers, both large and small, to enjoy the night sky and be able to see the stars above.

 

How to easily make the change?

IDA-communityMaking the switch to dark sky friendly lighting is simple by changing the fixture to an IDA approved dark sky friendly fixture. Looking for the IDA seal provided by the International Dark-Sky Association on fixture specifications or talking to your lighting representative for their recommendation is the first step. Lighting levels are typically better than non-dark sky fixtures as lighting is cast only in a downward pattern towards the ground where the lighting is needed.

Talk to your lighting representative if you have fixture that push light in all directions and are not dark sky approved. You can also make sure to use dark sky fixtures on any new lighting projects. By switching the lighting to a full cutoff, dark sky approved fixtures will allow us to reclaim our nights and enjoy all the beauty they hold.

Img Src: The Telegraph

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Topics: General Lighting, Conservation, Dark Sky Friendly Lighting

Happy New Year! What is Your Green Resolution?

Posted by SEPCO

1/2/14 9:30 AM

Welcome to 2014!

 

Green_Resolution

Resolutions are typically what everyone is talking about after the New Year. I am going to exercise more, eat better, spend more time with the family, etc. But what about resolutions for making the world a little greener? Is there anything you can add to your list of resolutions that will improve our planet? Here are a few that maybe you can think of implementing in 2014.

Ban the Bag

I hate it when I go to the store and forget my green bags at home. This year I am going to make a conscious effort to always have green bags on me and you can too. Keep a couple in your car at all times, even if you aren’t planning on going shopping. I even keep small ones in my purse for those smaller purchases. And you can find green bags just about everywhere and you don’t have to have one from each store, just as long as you use them when you go to the store.

Start a Garden

This one can range from a small container garden to overtaking your lawn into a huge garden. Grow something from a bunch of herbs to all the produce you could eat. With spring just around the corner, you can start building your garden now by planning and setting it up. When spring arrives, check out your local zoning and find what grows best where you live and what you love to eat. Do what you can to get the healthiest produce ever by purchasing heirloom seeds and stay as organic as you possibly can.

Stay Local

Make a conscious effort to purchase your needs and wants from a local small business. This can have a huge impact on your local economy since local businesses support your community organizations, create more jobs, give better service, and so much more. It also reduced your impact on the environment as it lowers transportation and creates less congestion. To find out more, visit Sustainable Connections and see what other benefits there might be to staying local.

Buy Reusable Items

Instead of purchasing throw away items, make a resolution to work toward replacing them with reusable materials. Paper towels are my favorite example. Instead of purchasing bunch of rolls for $8, spend that money on some microfiber or bar cloths. These are inexpensive and can just be thrown in the laundry to be reused. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few things that are just yuck and a paper towel is perfect. I still buy them, but I only use them when in dire need and therefore go through only a few sheets per week at most. I’m sure there are more things you can find to replace.

Green Power

Make a switch to green power if possible. Can you afford to install some solar panels on your roof? What about switching your lights to LEDs and upgrading to Energy Star appliances to lower your overall electrical usage to make using solar power more feasible in the near future. There is also many other options available if solar power is your end goal. Check out 1 Block Off The Grid for some great information.

By working together, we can have a great year while lowering our impact on the environment. What is your green resolution? Share with us below!

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Topics: Green Ideas, Holiday, Conservation, Recycling

Climate Resistance: How 3 Companies Fight the Good Fight

Posted by SEPCO

11/21/13 9:30 AM

Beyond the well-being of polar bears and state of melted glacial caps, the effects of climate change range far and wide. They touch all corners of the globe. They shift weather patterns, affect human health and diminish freshwater supplies.

How does climate change, that shift in global weather patterns that began in the mid 20th century, affect the way we do – or should do – business?

Climate plays an integral role in the ecosystems that occur naturally worldwide. Culture and human economy also rely on the average weather of a place. No matter what convention you go by when it comes to the source of climate change, if you're in business in 2013, it affects you.

How though? How does climate change alter the business you operate, work for, or rely on?

No company, regardless of Leeds certification status or green initiatives or global consciousness, can reverse climate change on their own. They can, however, delve into actions and behavioral changes that impact how they conduct business.

Here, are three companies who get it – and who get it done as they manage risks.

IBM_Smarter_Planet

IBM

The issue

IBM's eco-friendly awareness began well before most of ours did, more than 40 years ago. IBM, a global consulting and technology corporation, takes its heft as a world player to enact programs such as the Green Sigma Coalition, which seeks to reduce operating costs and construct efficient supply chains.

The strategy

IBM's sustainability approach is two-pronged: To attune its products and processes to efficient standards, and to create technology to aid a global effort for better accountability and environmental influence. The company keys on energy efficiency, manufacturing and distribution.

 The takeaway

IBM's efforts remind us that every business – regardless of industry or scope – is part of a global strategy of sustainability. This applies to everything from production to distribution to innovation.

Starbucks_Conservation_International

Starbucks

The issue

Erosion and pest infestation threatens coffee farm lands. Rainfall shifts and evolving harvest patterns in coffee-growing bioregions take a toll not only on available land, but also the economic communities nearby. Starbucks also is concerned with emissions from retail stores and roasting operations.

The strategy

Starbucks supports progressive climate-change policy, and assists conservation and restoration efforts in places such as Chiapas, Mexico; Minas Gerais, Brazil; and Sumatra, Indonesia. Starbucks connects farmers in these regions to government incentive packages for forest preservation and restoration.

The takeaway

Starbucks, through work with Conservation International, recognizes the shifting landscape of climate change, and how it can adapt its strategy to fit those changes.

recycle-repurpose-rewardVerizon

The issue

Energy conservation is paramount. Verizon, a broadband and telecommunications company, operates a fiber Internet network that reduces much of the infrastructure of the past. Carbon intensity reduction is important; Verizon also wants to ensure its top suppliers share its vision for maximum sustainability.

The strategy

Verizon customers can turn in old devices for new ones as part of a recycling program. Verizon Recycling Rallies have amassed more than a million points of e-waste. A 2009 initiative to reduce carbon intensity at cell sites and facilities and a 35,837-vehicle fleet by 50 percent by 2020 has reached 37.48 percent.

The takeaway

Internally, Verizon's green efforts are admirable, but it's the standards they set for top suppliers to also report on sustainability that go above and beyond. When industry heavy-hitters set those parameters, sustainable practice becomes a competitive advantage to those who participate.

About the Author: Christopher Beck is a sustainability consultant. Originally from Asheville, NC, he graduated with a degree from the University of South Carolina and is now pursuing a career trying to make the world a better, cleaner place.

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Topics: Green Ideas, Conservation

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